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Criminalization of ‘Possession of Unexplained Property’ and the Fight against Public Corruption: Identifying the Elements of the Offence under the Criminal Code of Ethiopia

WY Wodage


Despite countervailing arguments, there is a growing national and global trend of criminalization of ‘possession of unexplained property’. Since the end of the 20th century, many national, regional and global instruments that deal with corruption have criminalized possession of unexplained property (illicit enrichment). It is believed that this would facilitate deterrence and the recovery of public money/assets. It is further assumed that such measure would help facilitate investigatory, prosecutorial and adjudicatory activities in corruption cases. Ethiopia has joined these pursuits, and has criminalized ‘possession of unexplained property’ under the 2004 Criminal Code. The proper interpretation and application of this law presupposes sound understanding of the notion of the offence of illicit enrichment and the rationales that justify its criminalization. It also presupposes the proper identification of its constitutive elements and an
appreciation of the contexts in which the offence can be invoked. This Article examines the reasons for the criminalization of possession of unexplained property, discusses the nature and salient elements of this crime and related issues of concern. The aim of the Article is to examine the notion of illicit enrichment, its criminalization and ingredients with a view to contributing toward the proper interpretation and enforcement of the law in Ethiopia.

Key words: Possession of unexplained Property, illicit enrichment, corruption, Criminal Code of Ethiopia

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2309-902X
print ISSN: 1998-9881